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QRD #47 - Record Label Owner Interview Series
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Label Owner Interviews with:
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Record Label Owner Interview with Jeff Cloud of Velvet Blue Music
January 2011
Name: Jeff Cloud
Label: Velvet Blue Music
Artists Roster: The Prids, Birds & Batteries, Kissing Cousins, Doug Burr, Winters Fall, Telegraph Canyon, Map, Langley Sisters, Seryn.
Websites: velvetbluemusic.com www.twitter.com/velvetbluemusic

QRD – When & why did you start your label?

Jeff – 1996.  Because being in a band myself I came across all these great bands on tour who had no label to help them out.

QRD – Where did you get the money to finance your first few releases?

Jeff – Saved it up baby!  We put out four 7” singles all at one time, as our first releases.

QRD – How many releases have you put out?

Jeff – We are on VBM 138!

QRD – How many releases would you like to do a year?

Jeff – Ideally, I’d like to do 4 releases a year & just really be focused on them, but then something super cool comes your way & you just can’t resist getting it out there.

QRD – How many hours a week do you work on the label & how many would you like to?

Jeff – Hm, let’s see I do eat & sleep, so I’d have to subtract that time....  I love working on the label; I love vacation too, but you know what I mean.

QRD – What are the fun &/or rewarding parts about running a label?

Jeff – All the people who are made happy by what you make.  Life is short so you have to enjoy it.

QRD – How have your motivations for having a label changed?

Jeff – I’m not so sure they have?  I wanted to run a label, pay my bills, & enjoy doing it.  I’ve mostly accomplished this.  Of course making myself & the bands some more $ would be welcomed!

QRD – What do you feel is the biggest waste of your time running the label?

Jeff – When technology fails you & you waste hours trying to fix it.

QRD – What are some labels you admire or feel a kinship to?

Jeff – 4AD, Independent Projects, Secretly Canadian, Bella Union, Suicide Squeeze, Burnt Toast, etc.

QRD – What other work experiences prepared you to have a label?

Jeff – Not sure any did!  Lots of trial & error.  You’ve got guys at the major labels who are still unsure of how to get it right.

QRD – What makes your label special & unique?

Jeff – We’ve been so careful with our releases, to always keep them focused on great songs.  Lots of people will buy new records from us, just because it’s from us, before they’ve even heard the band; this is the greatest compliment & what makes my label special.

QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?

Jeff – I live in California, you know how much they tax you here!  West coast is the best coast though; everyone else can keep their humid summers & freezing winters.  How has it effected me? I’m happy!

QRD – Do you enjoy music as much now as you used to & how has running a label effected how you listen to/hear music?

Jeff – That’s a hard question.  When you’re in your teens music can be like your lifeline, you almost relied on hearing some of those songs.  I absolutely love music now, but in different ways.  I hear a lot of music obviously, but some times now I’ll enjoy a drive with the music off too.

QRD – What’s your demos policy?

Jeff – We’re always looking for new music. 

QRD – How do you find out about new artists for your label?

Jeff – Usually someone knows someone who is doing something with someone.

QRD – How do most fans find out about your label?

Jeff – Seeing bands on the road, ads, press. 

QRD – What’s been your biggest selling release & why do you think it was?

Jeff – Right now Doug Burr “O Ye Devastator,” the why is easy... it’s an amazing record.

QRD – What release that you’ve done was the most important & special to you personally?

Jeff – Every release is a slice of time & effort that make up my life.  I can look to a certain release & remember what other things were going on in my life at that time, what relationships were good or maybe not so good at that time.  All our releases are personal to me.

QRD – What are some things that make you want to work with a band?

Jeff – A good work ethic, good songs, good common sense, good people.

QRD – What are some things that would make you stop working with a band?

Jeff – I’ll pass on this one.  :)

QRD – What is the thing all releases on your label have in common?

Jeff – I picked each one! 

QRD – How involved are you with a band for acting as a producer as far as hearing demo ideas or selecting tracks to be on a release or mixing & mastering?

Jeff – Really depends on each release.  Sometimes I have nothing to do with this at all; sometimes I’m actually sitting in the studio making real time decisions.

QRD – How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?

Jeff – Same as the question above.  I want the band to be happy with it obviously, but I want to be proud of it as well.

QRD – How long is it from when an artist delivers an album to you until release date & why?

Jeff – Usually around 3 months, there’s a lot of prep work that goes into each release.

QRD – If a band breaks up between the recording of a release & the release date, how does that effect what you do?

Jeff – Weird enough, I don’t know if this has ever happened to me?

QRD – What do you wish bands on your label would do?

Jeff – Make great records & go play shows.  Really is as simple as that.

QRD – What’s a record you’d like to put out that you’ll never be able to?

Jeff – List could go on forever.  Unfortunately there’s an oddly large amount of talented people who just can’t get it together.

QRD – If you really like a band, but aren’t sure you could sell many copies of their record; what do you do?

Jeff – Put it out.  I do this pretty often!

QRD – How is financing of a release split between artists & the label?

Jeff – Varies on releases, but pretty much the label is responsible.

QRD – How do you split profits from a release between artists & your label?

Jeff – We go 50/50

QRD – Do you have written contracts with your bands or handshake deals?

Jeff – That’s like asking for the recipe of Coke?

QRD – Do you take a cut of a band’s publishing?

Jeff – Now you want the KFC recipe?

QRD – How important is it to you to have touring acts on your roster & what do you do to encourage it?

Jeff – Super important.  Being a musician is (1) Writing music  (2) Playing music.  I’ll do most anything to get them out there playing shows.

QRD – Do you handle promotions in house or hire out & why?

Jeff – A little of both.  It can be super time consuming & obviously a lot of other people are way better than me at it, but the good things in life aren’t cheap.

QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?

Jeff – Websites, mailers, email, etc.

QRD – How big of a staff do you have & how big of one do you need?

Jeff – Staff of 1!!!  Need like 10.

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with record stores?

Jeff – We set up instores, do promotions, etc.

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with radio stations?

Jeff – Send them good music, show info, have them involved as much as possible.

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with magazines & websites?

Jeff – Same as above.

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with bloggers?

Jeff – Same as above.

QRD – Do you view advertisements as a way to generate interest & revenue or more as a way to financially support magazines & websites you like?

Jeff – Both.

QRD – What is the job of your distributors?

Jeff – Get it out there!

QRD – How do you decide how big the initial pressing of a release should be?

Jeff – I usually have a pretty good idea.

QRD – What percentage of a pressing do you use for promotions?

Jeff – This varies so much & it’s always changing.

QRD – Do you sell merchandise other than the music (t-shirts, etc.)?

Jeff – Not too much, there are some shirts.

QRD – Do you sell music that is not on your label?

Jeff – We keep a pretty small distro section of releases we like from other labels.

QRD – How has running a label effected your own artistic career?

Jeff – It’s great to be able to see both sides.

QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?

Jeff – No, ideally someone would pay me a large sum of money & they would release it.

QRD – What do you do to try to build a sense of community within your roster?

Jeff – I think there’s a great community on the label.  All the bands we have are pretty like-minded & supportive of each other.  It’s like a family at times.  I mean I’ll know intimate details of these people’s lives, finances, trials, goals, dreams, etc.

QRD – What’s your most common conversation with bands as far as balancing artistic integrity & financial viability?

Jeff – I really never have this conversation.  I pretty much let the bands make the music they want to make.

QRD – How often do you look at your “return on investment” & adjust your business model?

Jeff – Not often!  I have a rough idea in my head, but I don’t want to find myself doing this only for the $.

QRD – Do you worry about search engine optimization & website traffic?

Jeff – Yeah.  Hopefully it is working fine.

QRD – What have you done to cut costs over the years?

Jeff – Not hire any new employees.  :) 

QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?

Jeff – No, I hope not. Plenty of people still respect it.

QRD – Do you think the return of vinyl & cassettes is a fad?

Jeff – Don’t really think vinyl ever really went away, it just took a sleepy break.  Cassettes are terrible, I hope they go away.

QRD – Is it important to have physical releases over digital ones or does it not matter?

Jeff – I think physicals are important.  It’s nice to hold something.  I still like printed magazines too though.

QRD – What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?

Jeff – Pretty hard to do & too many people miss the chance to hear it.

QRD – What do you think of “print on demand” discs?

Jeff – Thinking it sounds expensive.

QRD – How much content do you feel should be available free to fans?

Jeff – So difficult a question.  The more the better; which is great for fans, but hard on bands & labels.  You should work & get paid a good wage.

QRD – What do you do about people distributing your music without financial compensation (piracy & file trading)?

Jeff – Curse them in my dreams & wish I could take something from them.

QRD – What’s something you see other labels do that you think of as borderline unethical?

Jeff – Using dollar bills to blow their noses with.

QRD – What changes in things would cause you to stop your label?

Jeff – No $, health problems, ?

QRD – What would you suggest to someone starting a label today?

Jeff – I would probably suggest not to.  Many, many, many, many have come & gone.

QRD – Where do you think money is currently most available to labels/musicians & where in the future?

Jeff – Song placements & live shows.

QRD – Why do you think labels are still important to artists?

Jeff – Artists need the support, the know how, the fan base, the help.  You can do it on your own, but it’s extremely hard.

QRD – Music has had different hotspots on the internet over the years (newsgroups, MP3.com, MySpace, LastFM), but with MySpace’s decline, what do you see as the place where “normal” people go to find out about & get excited by new music?

Jeff – I guess unrelated, but seriously why on earth does it take the page soooooooooo long to load at any MySpace page?

QRD – In 20 years what do you think/hope your label will be known/remembered for?

Jeff – Putting out great records.